Navigation Links
Separating the good from the bad
Date:4/15/2009

Scientists at MIT and Brown University studying how marine bacteria move recently discovered that a sharp variation in water current segregates right-handed bacteria from their left-handed brethren, impelling the microbes in opposite directions.

This finding and the possibility of quickly and cheaply implementing the segregation of two-handed objects in the laboratory could have a big impact on industries like the pharmaceutical industry, for which the separation of right-handed from left-handed molecules can be crucial to a drug's safety.

While single-celled bacteria do not have hands, their helical-shaped flagella spiral either clockwise or counter-clockwise, making opposite-turning flagella similar to human hands in that they create mirror images of one another that cannot be superimposed.

This two-handed quality is called chirality, and in a molecule, it can make the difference between healing and harming the human body.

"This discovery could impact our understanding of how water currents affect ocean microbes, particularly with respect to their ability to forage for food, since chiral effects make them drift off-course. But it is also important for several industries that rely upon the ability to separate two-handed molecules." said Roman Stocker, the Doherty Assistant Professor of Ocean Utilization in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a principal investigator of the research.

One of the best-known instances of a chiral molecule causing widespread harm occurred in the 1950s, when the drug thalidomide was given to pregnant women to prevent morning sickness. One naturally occurring formor isomerof thalidomide reduces nausea; the other causes birth defects. In another commonly used chiral drug, naproxen, one isomer is analgesic; the other causes liver damage.

Stocker and graduate student Marcos, along with co-authors Henry Fu and Professor Thomas Powers of Brown University, published their findings in the April 17 issue of Physical Review Letters.

In the paper, the researchers describe how they designed a microfluidic environmenta device about the size of an iPod nano that has channels containing water and bacteriato create a "shear" flow of adjacent layers of water moving at different speeds. In their tests, Stocker and Marcos used a non-motile mutant of the bacterium Leptospira biflexa, whose entire body has the shape of a right-handed helix. They injected the Leptospira into the center of the microfluidic device and demonstrated that they drift off-course in a direction dictated by their chirality.

But the researchers did much more than observe the microbes under a microscope. In addition to the experimental data they gathered, with their Brown colleagues the MIT researchers also developed a rigorous mathematical model of the process. They are currently implementing this new approach to separate objects at molecular scales.

"The methods currently used to separate chiral molecules are far more expensive and far slower than the microfluidic option. While we still have some way to go to separate actual chiral molecules, we think our work is very promising for the agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industries." said Marcos.


'/>"/>

Contact: Denise Brehm
brehm@mit.edu
617-253-8069
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Source:Eurekalert  

Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Separating the good from the bad
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016   Acuant ... and verification solutions, has partnered with RightCrowd ... solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks and ... products that add functional enhancements to existing ... corporations and venues with an automated ID ...
(Date:6/16/2016)... 16, 2016 The global ... to reach USD 1.83 billion by 2024, according ... Inc. Technological proliferation and increasing demand in commercial ... to drive the market growth.      ... The development of advanced multimodal techniques for biometric ...
(Date:6/7/2016)...  Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio Credit Union ... integrating Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" solution into ... result in greater convenience for SACU members and ... existing document workflow and compliance requirements. ... Highlights: ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... healthier lives through the development of innovative products and ... the United States denied its petition ... claims of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 Patent") ... established by the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services v. ...
(Date:6/27/2016)...  Liquid Biotech USA , ... Sponsored Research Agreement with The University of Pennsylvania ... cancer patients.  The funding will be used to ... clinical outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a variety ... employed to support the design of a therapeutic, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona ... or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the ... are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... A person commits a crime, and the detective ... the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne illness ... (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria that ... It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, cutting-edge ... illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: